Our nerves are important communicators of information between the brain and the body. When working well they allow our muscles to function smoothly, allowing fluid movement and function. They also convey internal and external sensory information to the brain which creates an awareness of where were are, what we are doing and how things feel.
When the peripheral nerves are injured due to strain, compression, local inflammation or blood flow irregularities for example, the function of the nerves can become temporarily impaired. This may result in pain, pins & needles, a sense of numbness as well as changes in muscle tone and sometimes strength which may impact movement and function.
The key when treating these injured nerves is knowing how to assess them. There are a number of clinical tests we can perform which tell us if the nerves are not functioning normally and are likely to be the source of your pain.
Given injured nerves tend to be very irritable and easily aggravated, it is essential to be very gentle and specific when assessing the nerves.
This important point is one I employ with my clients and emphasise to my students. It is very easy to ‘over assess’ by being too vigorous which effectively creates more injury and worsens symptoms. Not ideal when a client has come to have pain relieved not made worse.
The nerves don’t tell you they have been aggravated right away, due to the latency effect. However get it wrong and a client may call a few days after the session complaining of a lot of pain.
When assessing the nerves, knowledge, practice and experience is important. Becoming attuned to the client and the functional state of their nerves starts as soon as he or she walks through the door.
A specific neural assessment can be hugely beneficial as it can allow very targeted physiotherapy treatment which means a quicker recovery, fewer sessions and happy clients.